In August 2014, Robert Wright received a Proof of Concept grant from the World Bank Group's Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC) and Caribbean Climate Innovation Center (CCIC) to develop renewable energy for a remote fishing village in Jamaica. One year later, he sold 400 units of his solar lamp and phone charging device to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat to support disaster relief efforts in Dominica, an eastern Caribbean island ravaged by Tropical Storm Erika.
Wright is the managing director of New Leaf Power (NLP), a small enterprise making strides in renewable energy solutions. The company had been betting on the development of an inexpensive lamp that could bring light and phone battery-replenishing power to the fishermen of Jamaica’s Pedro Banks.
Before New Leaf Power could make its first delivery, however, the existing stock of the new device was pressed into service for Dominicans who had been left in the dark by the storm.
“We received a phone call out of the blue from the CARICOM Secretariat in Guyana requesting our assistance after the devastating hurricane in Dominica," Wright said. "We supplied 300 lanterns, meeting the specifications that they be able to perform off-grid using solar for emergency light and phone charging.”
New Leaf Power's lanterns are powered by an onboard solar cell. They also have an auxiliary battery and can be fired up with a hand crank. In addition to providing efficient LED light, the lamps feature a USB port that allows users to charge cell phones and similar devices.
The lanterns charge fully after six hours of exposure to sunlight. They provide reliable and affordable power for residents striving for normalcy after a disaster—and for Caribbean emergency workers responding to events like Tropical Storm Erika.
“NLP has now become a go-to company for providing emergency clean energy products in the event of a natural disaster in the region,” Wright said. “This new line of business would not have been possible without the exposure that we received from the World Bank-sponsored CCIC award that we won for our Pedro Banks Clean Energy Hub project.”
“We intend to build on this opportunity in 2016 by providing an online portal for clean energy disaster relief and energy efficiency products, including those invented by scientists and entrepreneurs in the Caribbean," he said.